A major change in literary criticism of the past twenty-five years or so has been the emergence of the reader. Both Russian Formalism and the New Criticism had concentrated on the literary text as an object in itself and had devoted little or no attention to the reader. Indeed, a classic New Critical article is Wimsatt and Beardsley’s ‘The Affective Fallacy’, which argued that the reader, like the question of authorial intention, did not warrant critical consideration.1 The diversity of readers’ interests and responses, it was argued, made it impossible to establish any secure or coherent critical position on the basis of reader response. To take account of the reader opened the door to a relativism that would undermine literary criticism as a discipline.
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